Tag Archive for Theresa Owens

$24 million settlement in 2014 Fiesta Island crash, LA County tackles racial bias in bike stops, and Culver City gets mobile

Evidently, justice delayed isn’t always justice denied.

It was seven long years ago when a wrong-way driver slammed into a group of 30 bicyclists on San Diego’s Fiesta Island, injuring ten people.

Theresa Owens was high on meth when she got behind the wheel, looking for a boyfriend she thought was cheating on her.

She was speeding on the 25 mph roadway, after turning the wrong way on the narrow, one-lane road, when she rounded a blind corner and smashed into the group of riders.

Six of the victims were seriously injured, with Juan Carlos Vinolo ending up paralyzed from the chest down, as well as suffering a long list of other injuries.

A jury divided the liability between Owens and the city in 2019, ruling San Diego was responsible for failing to maintain visibility on the roadway, despite knowing of the dangers.

They held the city responsible for 27% of the damages, while state law required the city to pay 100% of Vinolo’s past and future medical bills and lost earnings.

Yesterday that bill came due, when the San Diego city council agreed to a whopping $23.75 million settlement for Vinolo and his wife for the meth-fueled Fiesta Island crash.

Although something tells me they’d gladly give back every penny in exchange for the use of his legs again.

Meanwhile, the city could have saved a fortune just by trimming some bushes and reducing berms, instead of waiting until it was too late.

And maybe reworking the intersections to channel drivers so they can only turn in the right direction.

Thanks to Megan Lynch, Phillip Young and BikinginLA sponsor Richard Duquette for the heads-up. 

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels.

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Los Angeles County responded to a recent LA Times investigative report that found biased policing of bike riders by LA County sheriff’s deputies.

The Times found that the overwhelming majority of bicycle traffic stops conducted by deputies were in areas where people of color make up the majority of the population, and with limited bike infrastructure.

Seven out of ten of those stops involved Latino riders, and 85 percent of the riders stopped were searched by deputies — even though those searches only turned up illegal items eight percent of the time.

Just imagine the outcry if drivers were routinely placed in the back of a squad car while police searched their belongings following a simple traffic stop.

Let alone white drivers.

The LA County Board of Supervisors responded on Tuesday by unanimously approving proposals to decriminalize bicycling violations, including

  • Developing a diversion program allowing bike traffic school in lieu of fines for traffic tickets, which was approved by the state a few years ago, and
  • Drafting a change to county code to legalize riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in unincorporated areas, although only on non-residential streets without bike lanes.

In addition, the supervisors ordered a review of biased policing of bike riders by the sheriff’s department.

Not surprisingly, though, the sheriff’s department, which has attempted to stonewall virtually every other effort at oversight, had no response.

Granted, these are just proposal to develop new rules, so far. But it’s a big step in the right direction.

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Newly bike-friendly Culver City officially kicks off Move Culver City this Saturday, featuring three new quick-build bus-bike lanes in the downtown area.

Quite a change from the not-too-distant past when Culver City cops would meet group rides at the city limits, and ticket riders for every real and imagined violation they could find, while they escorted them out of town.

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Streets For All has posted video of last night’s mobility debate between the candidates for LA’s CD13, currently held by two-term incumbent Mitch O’Farrell.

 

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Clearly, not even Tour de France winners are safe from dangerous drivers, as 2019 winner Egan Bernal was the victim of a far too close pass from a driver trying to squeeze into a non-existent gap.

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Local

No news is good news, right?

 

State

The president of a college-prep nonprofit spent every Friday for the past month riding his bike to talk with teachers and students at nearly 30 Orange County schools, covering 200 miles by the time he was done. Thanks to Sindy for the link.

A bike-riding homeless woman went to court, and won the right to keep living in a Fountain Valley park, despite repeated attempts to force her to leave.

San Diego continues to make strides to meet their climate change goals and reduce car use by eliminating parking requirements for businesses near transit or in densely populated areas.

Sad news from Bakersfield, where a woman was killed when she allegedly rode her bike across the street in front of an oncoming driver. As always, a lot depends on whether there were any independent witnesses, besides the driver, who saw her ride out into traffic.

A Berkeley paper joins the Cal Berkeley student paper’s call to improve Telegraph Ave, and raises them by calling for making the iconic street carfree.

 

National

Last month’s Vision Zero Cities conference considered how the language used in ads and newspaper reports can hurt crash victims, who are inevitably blamed for their injuries.

An Arizona man is 6,700 miles into a planned 18,000-mile journey by bicycle to visit each of the more than 400 national parks in the US, although he may need to pick up the pace a little after hitting just 14 parks, leaving another 386+ to go. He’s attempting to raise $50,000 for conservation projects in the National Parks.

Speaking of national parks, Utah’s Zion National Park now has a new ten-mile bike trail on the east side of the park.

A Streetsblog op-ed says New York’s bike lanes need more protection than the usual plastic car-tickler bendy posts, which don’t keep anyone out.

A Washington Post op-ed says American bicycling has a racism problem, tracing the roots to discrimination against Southern Black bike riders around the turn of the last century.

Tragic news from Florida, where a 14-year old boy was found dead after he went missing while riding his bike on Monday; no word on the cause of death, though his school described it as an “accident.”

 

International

Montreal’s Bixi bikeshare had a record-setting year, with ridership up 74% as they packed the bikes up for the winter.

This is who we share the road with. A London woman mistakenly stepped on the gas instead of the brakes, jumped the curb and killed a man walking on the sidewalk, then lied to investigators by saying the man stepped out into the street in front of her. So naturally, the court let her walk without a day behind bars, and took her license away for a whole year.

Burglars broke into a British bike park and stole literally everything there was to take, from generators and Park Tools, to cash raised for a local air ambulance service.

He gets it. A writer for Britain’s Independent says we’ll never get to zero emissions until we admit we’re all climate hypocrites who want to stick to our comfortable, fossil-fueled lifestyles.

A member of the UK Parliament says the country’s lax hit-and-run laws give drivers an incentive to flee the scene rather than stick around and get tested for DUI. We have exactly the same problem in California, where lax penalties and minimal enforcement encourage drivers to flee, knowing they’re unlikely to ever get caught, or seriously punished if they are.

E-scooters in Paris will be forced to automatically slow down to just above walking speed in over 700 more crowded areas throughout the city.

Bicycle Dutch author Mark Wagenbuur has updated his classic explanation of how the Dutch got their cycle paths.

An Indian writer considers the benefits of getting your kids off their screens and onto bicycles.

He gets it, too. An op-ed by a New Zealand university professor explains why your next car should be a bike.

 

Competitive Cycling

The popular SoCal edition of the Belgian Waffle Ride gravel race hits the little screen with the new hour-long documentary This Is Not A Gravel Race premiering on Outside TV.

Britain’s Pfeiffer Georgi won the country’s road race national championship less than 12 months after breaking two vertebrae while riding in Belgium

The thief who stole Geraint Thomas’ bike was just 15 years old; Thomas said he was looking forward to checking his Garmin to see if the kid had any skills.

Track racing at the Velo Sports Center in Carson this weekend.

 

Finally…

Build your own DIY shaft-drive bike. Now you, too, can ride a hand-painted work of art, for the low, low price of 30 grand.

And we may have to deal with LA drivers, but at least we don’t…well, wait for it.

Thanks to Pops for forwarding the tweet.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

Morning Links: Guilty in North Fig hit-and-run and meth-fueled Fiesta Island crash, & still more Coronado madness

It’s been a busy few weeks for courtroom drama.

In the latest case, 21-year old Alexis Virto has pled guilty in the horrifying hit-and-run death of bike rider Jose Luna.

Luna was crossing North Figueroa in a marked crosswalk with another rider last June when Virto’s car smashed into him at an estimated 60 to 80 mph, then sped away with his victim still on the hood of his car, carrying Luna’s body 200 yards from the crash site.

Police found his abandoned car, which led them to arrest Virto as he slept with his girlfriend just six blocks from where the collision occurred; still drunk, with windshield glass glittering in his hair.

EGP News reports he plead guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as part of a plea deal; prosecutors are expected to drop additional counts of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage causing injury, driving with a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content causing injury, and hit-and-run resulting in death or serious injury to another person.

He’s due for sentencing on November 5th; the story does not say what sentence he faces as a result of the plea.

North Figueroa had been scheduled for a road diet intended to improve safety and slow speeding drivers. Had it not been summarily cancelled by Councilmember Gil Cedillo, it would have been completed long before this collision, though there’s no way to know if it would have made a difference in this case.

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Not surprisingly, the meth-infused wrong way driver who plowed into a group of cyclists on San Diego’s Fiesta Island has been found guilty.

Despite her lawyer’s bizarre claim that she wasn’t impaired by the meth in her system. Or the meth hidden in her privates.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Theresa Owens was found guilty of felony DUI causing injury, as well as causing permanent paralysis to one victim and great bodily injury to three others.

She was also convicted on a misdemeanor possession count for the .15 grams of methamphetamine stashed in her vagina.

She now faces up to 18 years in prison.

Let’s hope wherever she ends up, it has a good rehab program.

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More madness from Coronado, as a resident uses Google to discover various Vehicular Cycling websites, and cites them as proof that bike lanes don’t belong in the crazy little burgh.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Bicycle Coalition offers a more rational voice.

And the Coronado insanity neatly sums up this piece touting the craziest things that have been said about bike lanes.

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A new study from the University of Arizona shows that wearing a bike helmet reduced the risk of severe traumatic brain injury in a collision by 58%, and the risk of death by 59%. The authors also note helmet use reduced the risk of facial fractures by 29%.

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Evidently, the reward for winning the world champion’s rainbow jersey is the chance to play waterboy for your teammates in your next race.

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Local

Outside Magazine looks at Madmen producer Tom Smut’s recent ride to the Emmys, and says what bicycling needs is the perfect A-list champion of bikes. The problem isn’t finding celebrities who ride bikes, it’s getting the world to pay attention. Unless maybe Russell Crowe, Katy Perry and Beyonce aren’t big enough, just to name a few.

South Pasadena students take part in Wednesday’s National Walk to School Day on foot and by bike; KPCC says Walk to School Day raises important safety issues.

Los Angeles Magazine looks at Culver City’s new bike friendly restaurant, The Cannibal.

Bike SGV invites you to attend the Grand Opening of their new Bicycle Education Center on the 25th, complete with Halloween Pet and Costume Bike Train.

 

State

San Diego advocates insist that transit lines and bike and pedestrian projects must move to the head of the line, as the San Diego Association of Governments, aka SANDAG, prepares to vote on a $204 billion transportation plan.

UC Riverside is the latest campus to combat bike theft using GPS bait bikes; so far, they’ve been stolen 17 times, leading to 13 convictions.

Bicycling says Marin County Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Charlie Cunningham needs your help after suffering a life-threatening subdural hematoma in a riding accident that forced him to crawl two miles out of the woods; a gofundme account has be established to help pay medical expenses.

Hollister police haven’t issued a single ticket for violating California’s helmet law for riders under 18 since 2011. Nor should they; a simple warning should be sufficient in cases like that.

A NorCal website explains the difference between Ordinary and Safety bicycles, in case you happen to find yourself in need of a ride in 1880s London.

 

National

Kevin McCarthy’s withdrawal from the race for Speaker of the House means the next leader of the US House of Representatives won’t be a California bike rider.

The Feds propose scrapping regulations that make it difficult to build Complete Streets.

Montana is the latest state to ditch the requirement that cyclists ride as far to the right as practicable; now riders will be allowed to ride as far to the right as they feel safety allows. Are you listening Calbike and CABO? This should be the next big change to California bike law. And while we’re at it, let’s ditch the must-use requirement for bike lanes and bike paths; different types of riders have different needs, and one lane does not fit all.

Bicycling is booming just about everywhere. Except Iowa, evidently.

A Nebraska man is biking the trail the Native American Ponca people were forced to march to their Oklahoma reservation.

Yet another bighearted cop, as a Texas police lieutenant replaces a man’s stolen bike.

One week after a Wisconsin boy finished building his custom BMX bike, a group of teenagers shoved a gun in his face and stole it.

The Wall Street Journal says bike lanes make riding in New York less challenging, but cyclists still face a number of obstacles, from bike lanes blocked by vehicles to lanes that stop and start without warning.

A Brooklyn councilman says the city’s Transportation Committee is more concerned about parking than the safety of bicyclists.

A Staten Island website says with a price tag of $300 to $400 million to add bike and pedestrian access to New York’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, just forget about it.

Bike New York offers advice on autumn cycling.

DC’s Metro system blames the city’s successful bikeshare system for their loss in ridership. The brilliance of LA Metro’s planned bikeshare system is that it is designed to be integrated into the transit system, not compete with it.

An OpEd in the Charlotte Observer calls for a Vision Zero there to end the cycling carnage on city streets.

 

International

Three successful women designers discuss women’s bike style beyond the usual shrink it and pink it approach.

A Toronto writer calls the so-called war on cars a mythical fabrication, and says cyclists deserve bike lanes that will allow them to ride in safety.

Two Lycra-clad British bike thieves walk into a bike shop and calmly walk out with a pair of bikes worth $6,600.

SF Gate takes a bike tour along the rugged coast of Ireland.

An Irish cyclist was fined the equivalent of $283 after he was convicted of careless driving for crashing into the back of a parked car.

The bike-riding mayor of Rome has been forced out over an expense scandal; he had won admirers for refusing to stop riding his bike despite mafia threats.

South Australia bicyclists will now enjoy the equivalent of a three-foot passing law and be allowed to ride on the sidewalk, while drivers will be allowed to cross over a double center line to pass cyclists when they have a clear view of approaching traffic and can safely do so. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have allowed drivers to do the same thing here.

Instead of improving safety, the mayor of Melbourne wants to tell riders to just avoid certain streets.

 

Finally…

There’s nothing unusual about a car chase in Los Angeles; on the LA River bike path, not so much. Caught on video: Once again, a Brit rider has been smacked by a crossing bar while trying to beat a train.

And Donald Trump seems to have forgotten about that little bike race he once held.

 

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